WASHINGTON - A US-Israeli ballistic missile exercise postponed until this autumn will involve fewer US military personnel than initially planned, the Pentagon said on Friday, but it rejected a media report portraying the decision as a sign of US mistrust.
The exercise is being planned amid rising war talk in the Israeli media and reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are debating a unilateral attack on Iran to knock out its nuclear installations. Washington has cautioned Israel against going it alone.
"Austere Challenge-12 remains the largest-ever ballistic missile defense exercise between our nations and a significant increase from the previous event in 2009," said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jack Miller, a Pentagon spokesman.
"The exercise has not changed in scope and will include the same types of systems as planned. All deployed systems will be fully operational with associated operators," Miller said.
Time magazine reported on Friday that initially about 5,000 US troops were planned to be involved in Austere Challenge-12 but that the number was being pared back to between 1,500 and 1,200. It quoted an unnamed Israeli military official as saying the change was a sign of US mistrust.
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